Valley Lutheran's Appold Charges On

April 19, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Sarah Appold’s favorite pitch really depends on the day – and the various options she’s honed during a record-setting career at Saginaw Valley Lutheran.

Of course, there is the old stand-by fastball. The Chargers’ senior also can go change-up. She has a dangerous drop ball. But if she absolutely needs a swing and a miss, it’s got to be the rise.

“I just like the way I can kinda play games with it,” Appold said.

She’s won more than most seniors in Michigan this school year.

Appold is, without question, one of the most impressive all-around athletes in the state's class of 2012. A Second Half High 5 recipient this week, she made the Class C all-state second team in volleyball during the fall and then The Associated Press’ Class C all-state basketball team in the winter.

But softball has always been her number one – Appold holds multiple strikeout records at Valley Lutheran and has signed to pitch next for Saginaw Valley State.

“I played a lot of first base (growing up). But I liked being in control, playing all the time,” Appold said of pitching. “I like being able to be part of every single play. It’s just like playing a game every single time someone is up to bat.”

A decade ago, when second-grader Sarah decided she wanted to give pitching a try, her dad Randy – himself a fastpitch thrower – built her a pitching mound in the backyard.

It clearly got some use.

She set the Chargers’ single-season strikeout record of 272 as a sophomore – made more impressive by the fact she’s shared pitching duties all of her four varsity seasons and threw only 138 innings that season. She’s in the MHSAA record book three times for striking out at least 14 batters in one game, with her 15 in a 2010 contest tied for fifth on the list.

But the number that really pops is the school record she set last season for strikeouts per inning – 2.06.

This spring she’s faced 57 batters and struck out 36 in starting 2-0. She hasn’t given up an earned run and has allowed just five hits and walked four. Opponents are batting a mere .098 against her.

“Just being around her, and seeing her attitude, it’s hard to describe,” Valley Lutheran coach John Mueller said. “Because for all four years, watching her on the mound, she could strike somebody out or give up a hit, and you’d never see a change in her facial expression. She’ll get a couple of runners on base and it’s no big deal. She’s not so worried.”

He saw that confidence emerge especially last season. And her presence allows for her teammates – who together are ranked No. 5 in Division 3 – to remain confident even if they don’t make an offensive dent the first time through the line-up.

Appold also struck out 14 on Saturday as she and teammate Kelsey Schaus both threw no-hitters in a sweep of Flint Southwestern. Appold is joined by another four-year varsity player in Kara Englehardt among a group that Mueller said has shown exceptional work ethic across all sports over the last few years – and no doubt is working toward improving on last season’s finish in the Regional Final, a 7-5 loss to Sanford Meridian.

Appold also played four seasons of varsity volleyball and three on the basketball team. One more run would be a fitting end to an impressive softball career and incredible senior year as a whole.

“I guess I was a little shy coming in when I came in as a freshman. But I had juniors and seniors on the team who helped me settle down,” Appold said. “I definitely feel a lot older. And as you get older, there’s not a pressure, but a feeling of being almost done – and wanting to end the season winning the last game.”

Click for more on Appold and the rest of this week's High 5s.

PHOTOS: Saginaw Valley Lutheran Sarah Appold helped her team to last season's Division 3 Regional Final, playing both first base and pitching in the tournament.

Grass Lake Slugger Turner Writing Name All Over MHSAA Record Book

By Doug Donnelly
Special for

May 7, 2024

Bill and Julia Turner have not only put in a lot of miles on the road, but they’ve also put a lot of miles in on the softball field.

Greater DetroitBefore Olivia Turner was hitting the cover off the ball and becoming Michigan’s career RBI leader for the Grass Lake softball team, Bill and Julia were taking her to the field for batting practice.

“I always wanted to go to the field, and my dad would take me and my mom would shag balls in the outfield,” Olivia said. “They’ve spent countless hours, especially traveling around the country. They’ve been my biggest support system. They are awesome.”

Her Warriors teammates are grateful, too. Last week Turner became Michigan’s all-time leader in runs batted in, surpassing Taylor Light & Life Christian’s Kelly Kennedy, who held the record with 304 RBIs from 1991-94.

“It was crazy to think I beat a 30-year-old record,” Turner said. “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates. I’m just super thankful.”

Having her name on the state record book for softball is nothing new to Turner. She barely missed the state mark for RBIs in a season last year when she had 102 and is the state’s all-time career doubles leader already.

Grass Lake head coach Roger Cook said Turner never talks about hitting home runs or driving in runs – just about being a teammate.

“I’m going to tell you, she’s one of the most modest people you’ll ever talk to,” Cook said. “She just talks team, team, team. She always has since I’ve known her. She has never said one thing about a home run or a base hit.”

Turner, who plays third base, has been around the Grass Lake program for a long time. When her sister Madeline was playing for the Warriors before heading off to play at Findlay University in Ohio, Olivia would tag along.

“I just wanted to be at the field, be around softball,” she said.

Turner first picked up the game when she was on an 8-and-under team.

“I fell in love with it,” she said.

Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records.She started as a pitcher, but quickly converted to infielder, where she has played with Grass Lake and various travel teams. She also plays volleyball and basketball for Grass Lake, but softball is her sport.

“We’re all one family,” she said. “I love that you get to play with girls that you may not be friends with at school. It shows you who you are. Softball gives you a lot of life lessons – dedication, teamwork, how to work with others.”

She loves to hit, too.

“Every at-bat, even if there is no one on base, I want to get on base,” she said. “I’m always going up to the plate doing it for my team, not for myself. The RBIs are pretty cool. My team gets on base for me. All of the girls are phenomenal.”

Cook said he sometimes gets worried that opponents will just pitch around Turner. But because of who is in the lineup in front of and behind her, he doesn’t have to worry about that.

“We have Rylee Fitzpatrick, Emily Brown, then Olivia,” Cook said. “After Olivia we have (junior) Bree Salts, who has committed to Central Michigan. It’s hard to pitch around her. When we get to some of these big games, teams will have to throw to her.”

Last year’s Division 3 runner-up Ottawa Lake Whiteford has faced Grass Lake multiple times over the past couple of seasons, and coach Matt VanBrandt is plenty familiar with the damage Turner can do.

"You'd better have a plan when you are pitching to her,” VanBrandt said. “She’s a dangerous hitter. She’s someone you need to think about before the game starts.”

Turner hit .714 last season with 30 doubles and those 102 runs batted in. For her career, she’s belted 48 home runs and knocked in 309 runs after Saturday’s tournament. She’s never hit below .535 for a season and is nearing 100 career doubles.

Grass Lake currently is 22-1 and leading the Cascades Conference.

“It’s crazy to think I am actually a senior now,” Turner said. “Now that it is my senior year, I just want to work hard and play for my team. We’ve had great seniors the last couple of years. It’s crazy to think this is my last season.”

Turner will attend Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. She chose Bradley because of its nursing program.

“Academics has always been first for me,” she said. “I fell in love with the campus. It’s not too big or too small. The staff there is great.”

Before taking her swing to college, Grass Lake wants to make a deep tournament run this season. And the more games the Warriors play, the more RBIs Turner is likely to add to her record.

“Olivia has one of the smoothest, most beautiful swings I’ve ever seen,” Cook said. “She’s one of the girls you want up there at bat with the game on the line. She can do it all. If you need a single, she’ll get you a single. If you need a walk-off, she can do that, too.”

Doug DonnellyDoug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Grass Lake’s Olivia Turner focuses on a pitch coming her way. (Middle) Turner will graduate this spring with multiple MHSAA records. (Photos courtesy of Pictures by Marisa and the Grass Lake softball program.)